Thu | Nov 23, 2017

Jaevion Nelson | Don't abandon rural Jamaica

Published:Saturday | October 21, 2017 | 12:00 AM
Ray Stewart shoulders a bag of sugar cane in Trinityville, St Thomas, on March 8. Commentator Jaevion Nelson says there need to be more diverse job offerings for rural youth besides agriculture and the hospitality sector.

It appears that some parliamentarians are of the view that rural development in Jamaica is being stymied by the vast number of us who leave our home in the country to resettle, live and work in Kingston and St Andrew.

I can't quite fathom how I could, in anyway, be blamed for the underdevelopment in my community in Clarendon. My departure over 13 years ago surely could not be the reason for the lack of opportunities, crime and violence, poverty, and other social and economic problems there.

The state of affairs in rural Jamaica is because successive governments have neglected these parishes and continue to do so. It's uncanny how our parliamentarians always manage to point fingers at everyone rather than take responsibility for their ineptitude. They fail to appreciate how a thrust towards rural development can yield significant results for Jamaica on a whole. The occasional patching of roads, assistance with tuition fees, and a little money to help people with small projects does not do much for development in rural Jamaica.

I was struck by the sentiments of the minister of industry, commerce, agriculture and fisheries, Karl Samuda, who was speaking at the World Food Day national ceremony and exhibition at the Knockalva Agricultural School in Hanover last week.

According to the news report in the Jamaica Observer, he said, "I implore you to see the positives in every aspect of your community development and try to remain at home to build your community. It is only by rural development that we will see the degree of growth and economic achievement that we all hope for."

A friend invited some of us to share our views about minister Samuda's statement. The conversation made me realise that many people actually believe that if young people stayed in their communities, there would be more opportunities there. It is critical that we appreciate that parishes do not lack opportunities for young people because those of us who leave to go to college or university do not return.

I don't think St Mary or St Thomas are the way they are because people leave dem backa bush fi look work a town after dem get likkle edicayshan. Rural areas lack opportunities because those who are entrusted with the responsibility to facilitate/provide such opportunities do not do so. It is erroneous to suggest otherwise. It most certainly is not the fault of the people seeking opportunities to better themselves so they can (hopefully) live comfortably and help to support their family back home.

Rural development is something I think about quite a bit given the circumstances that led me to Kingston. While I have always desired to live in a city, I knew before I left my home in 2004 for the UWI that I cannot go back home based on the careers I had interest in.

I was well aware of the fact that I had no other option than to leave. There are, however, lots of persons who end up staying home despite their training and interests because they have no desire to live in Kingston. In November last year, during the advocacy after-dark session at Equality Youth JA's social justice training work, the issue came up several times. One person in particular who graduated from Wesleyan shared their frustration regarding the lack of opportunities in rural Jamaica and they're not going to move to Kingston to get a good job.

 

Create opportunities

 

It's unfortunate that the kinds of jobs in rural Jamaica are so limited. Young people want more than work in hotels, schools, BPOs, agriculture or the handful of banks. If the Government wants young people to stay in their parishes, they should create and/or facilitate lucrative and meaningful opportunities so they can consider staying home. It shouldn't be that so many of us have to leave to survive instead of just for new experiences.

I sincerely hope that parliamentarians representing rural constituencies recognise the enormous responsibilities they have. They encourage investments in their constituencies. What if locally owned businesses were given special concessions if they set up shop in some of the poorest areas in rural Jamaica? What if Government moved some of its operations to these communities? Would this not help to expand the opportunities available inna country and encourage people to stay a dem yard?

Let us get serious about rural development.

- Jaevion Nelson is a human rights, economic and social justice advocate. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and jaevion@gmail.com, or tweet @jaevionn.